Just a note to anyone who bothers to read this, I am occasionally awful at checking my watchlist. If you want to make sure I hear a comment about something I wrote, please leave a message on my talk page.
- 1 Barnstars
- 2 Did you know?
- 3 My views on Wikipedia
- 3.1 Vandalism
- 3.2 Coupling of notability and verifiability
- 3.3 Reliable sources aren't always reliable
- 3.4 Bad arguments that Wikipedia doesn't work
- 3.4.1 Wikipedia's notability guideline unduly restricts its content
- 3.4.2 Wikipedia's reliable sources guideline is too restrictive
- 3.4.3 Wikipedia's requirement for reliable sources makes it a mouthpiece for established media
- 3.4.4 I have a right to edit, and therefore no one can delete my contributions
- 3.5 Why there are hard and fast rules
- 3.6 Episodes, characters and other fictional spinoff articles
- 4 Best. Quote. Ever.
|The RickK Anti-Vandalism Barnstar|
|For you diligence and good work as a Wiki editor. JNW (talk) 07:05, 29 January 2008 (UTC) |
|The Admin's Barnstar|
|Here's something for all the hard work you put into Wikipedia. Well done! — Martin (MSGJ · talk) 22:49, 20 April 2009 (UTC)|
|The Diligent Librarian Barnstar|
|For exemplary performance at the Resource Exchange, tirelessly delivering the reliable sources on which this encyclopedia depends, please accept this award. :) Franamax (talk) 08:37, 5 June 2009 (UTC)|
|The Real Life Barnstar|
|For your cool, calm and collected handling of the recent school threat. Thank you! Basket of Puppies 05:27, 23 November 2009 (UTC)|
|The Original Barnstar|
|I just saw the way you handled a certain OTRS ticket, and I just wanted to say you did a good job. J Milburn (talk) 15:20, 5 August 2010 (UTC)|
|The Barnstar of Good Humor|
|For recognizing quality contributions, as you did here. (Note: I proposed full protection!) Drmies (talk) 17:44, 7 February 2012 (UTC)|
|The Dispute Resolution Barnstar|
|Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful closing statement in Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Muhammad images. You and the other two administrators have made more difference to a contentious article than most editors might imagine, and for this you all deserve to be recognised. The Dispute Resolution Barnstar, which "may be awarded to an editor who makes a contribution to one of the dispute resolution forums that exceptionally furthers the aims of the project", is I think the most appropriate.|
|The Original Barnstar|
|For all of your great work at WP: EF/FP Electric Catfish 20:59, 29 July 2012 (UTC)|
|The Teamwork Barnstar|
|For your help at Wikipedia:Edit filter/False positives/Reports! -- Cheers, Riley Huntley 05:38, 12 November 2012 (UTC)|
|The Anti-Vandalism Barnstar|
|Thanks for reverting my page so quickly! Excellent to know that such vigilant individuals contribute to wikipedia and to ensure that their help does not go without notice. Jab843 (talk) 04:43, 13 February 2013 (UTC)|
|The Admin's Barnstar|
|I'm not even sure if I should be giving you more barnstars since you clearly have too many already. Certainly appreciated your promptness in offering advice and investigating a couple of SPIs. Mkdwtalk 10:30, 13 February 2013 (UTC)|
Did you know?
Articles I wrote or significantly expanded
Articles I nominated
My views on Wikipedia
I've been around here long enough, so I think it's about time I made some of my views and observations on Wikipedia transparent for anyone who cares. I generally believe that Wikipedia works.
Vandalism was probably one of the earliest and most trivial annoyances on Wikipedia. With the recent advent of the Abuse Filter, and the now large and experienced army of of hugglers, the more trivial forms of vandalism are easily dealt with. As with POV pushing, the forms of vandalism that are more threatening to Wikipedia are those that are more subtle, and those that even actively pretend to be good faith actions.
While there have always been vandals who enjoy the mere act of vandalizing (placing expletives or insults or other random content) on an article or another page, there are those with other motivations. Some vandals tweak factoids (especially dates), to try to make non-obvious and long-lasting vandalism. They enjoy not being seen, but corrupting Wikipedia's accuracy.
Attention seeking vandals
While many trivial vandals enjoy the brief attention of plasting expletives on a page, some vandals enjoy much longer term attention, and many of them are branded as trolls. While a troll may have a motive beyond simply getting attention, many seek attention for its own sake. Some of these vandals pose as poor confused newbies making horrible but good faith edits. Some of these vandals (in addition to other brands of vandal and troll) attempt to drag down anyone who calls them on their bullshit, accusing them of assuming bad faith, or of warning/reporting/blocking an innocent editor. Since it is the attention they seek (either for its own enjoyment, or enjoying the knowledge they are wasting others' time), once it is certain they are acting in bad faith, little to no attention should be paid to them.
Coupling of notability and verifiability
It is my view that notability is a good thing for much the same reason that verifiability is a good thing. If a topic is not verifiable except in unreliable sources, then there is nothing to say about the topic that can be cited to a reliable source. In this case, the article should not exist. In some cases, only one reliable source exists, or many exist, but only the most trivial information is provided. In these cases, it's theoretically possible to write a single sentence that can cite a reliable source, but the topic is not considered notable. The question can then be asked, why shouldn't an article exist if something verifiable can be written?
I personally believe this argument comes largely from individuals who hold an overly Wikipedia-centric opinion that Wikipedia should contain essentially everything - that a person shouldn't have to use any other website. But I don't think there is really much value to Wikipedia in hosting an article about a topic that no one has bothered to ever write more than one sentence about. Further, it would be a nice thing indeed if such an article never grew beyond that single verifiable sentence, but in practice, that doesn't happen. And of course, it can always be placed in another article if such a thing is applicable. In any event, if there is a degree of reliable coverage that does not establish the very low bar of notability, it will probably be the case that a simple Google search will turn up all of the relevant information. Since Wikipedia is not a mirror of the rest of the internet, there is no need to contain every verifiable sentence ever written.
Reliable sources aren't always reliable
This is a key point to building an accurate encyclopedia, and one that users often misunderstand. There are claims that editors exist who believe the question of reliability to be binary; that is, a source either is or isn't, in all situations. It is my observation that while this claim may be true in some isolated circumstances, it is most often an oversimplification or misunderstanding of the views of others. However, far more disturbing are claims that since even the best sources are not always reliable, then nothing is a reliable source, which is simply ridiculous.
Primary sources and self-published content
Primary sources include raw data and other purely original content. To a significant degree the term is also equal in terms of reliability to that of self-published content. This content is questionable because it is accompanied by no review of any kind. It is reliable only for stating what the source itself states. This does not mean, however, that it should never appear on Wikipedia. It may be the case that the primary or self-published source is extremely significant to a particular article. These sources can be used to illustrate in further detail points made by more reliable, third-party secondary sources.
A single research paper is largely in the same place as a primary source. As opposed to your typical primary source, however, a research paper that has been reliably published was also reviewed by established experts in the relevant field. However, it is not the job of the editorial board of even the most esteemed journal to ensure the veracity of everything in the paper. In fact, the progress of science actually depends to an extent on the challenging of theories and findings wherever contradictions or inconsistencies can be found. Thus, the publishing of a research paper is not a demonstration that the claims within are true or even that they are widely held opinions - merely that they are reasonable opinions, given the information available to the reviewers. And so a single research paper does not demonstrate that a new point of view on a scientific subject is either notable or signifcant. The notability can only be demonstrated by acknowledgements of the opinion in independent publications, or by media coverage. The significance of the opinion can only be demonstrated by showing it is held by more than the originators of the opinion.
Enough newspapers are printed every day that some articles invariably contain errors. Some of these are corrected, while most others are simply insignificant. A rare few explode into major debacles. There are also situations in which a Newspaper didn't really get anything wrong, but is simply overattending to an insignificant viewpoint.
Some editors argue that because of one or all of these facts, newspapers cannot be considered reliable sources. This argument then follows down a number of possible roads, including: A) All sources should be considered reliable; B) This particular source, such as the New York Times, should never be considered reliable; C) Nothing should be said on this debacle, because it originated from an unreliable source; or D) Wikipedia is a doomed project because it won't allow
me self proclaimed experts established experts to decide what is or isn't true.
Plainly, every one of these points is ridiculous. Point A is refuted below in the section on arguments against the reliable sources guideline. Point B collapses into point A, since no source is perfect. Point C is a misunderstanding of Wikipedia's purpose; if a thing is notable, there should be an article on it, even if that thing, such as a newspaper story, is completely wrong. This is why Wikipedia has articles on famous hoaxes and false criminal accusations. Point D usually comes from people simply trying to push their own point of view, and unwilling to accept that they could possibly be wrong. These individuals are really just an advanced form of the editors who think no one has the right to remove their contributions, as described below in the so named section.
The purpose of a journal and the purpose of a newspaper are extremely disimilar. The former is to encourage the advancement of scientific understanding by sharing knowledge and ideas. The latter is to inform readers of anything that will sell newspapers, plus whatever its editors think is interesting, minus whatever they don't want to be associated with. It is for this reason that newspapers often publicise academic viewpoints that, while extremely interesting, are utterly insignificant. Inexperienced editors fascinatingly make diametrically opposing mistakes related to this issue. The first group of editors believes that if a viewpoint appears in a newspaper, then it is significant and should be included in the article on its parent topic. The second believes that since newspapers lend zero credibility to the academic topics they cover, they are inappropriate sources for any academic content.
Both of these opinions are incorrect in that they misinterperet the distinction between notability and significance. A good newspaper normally never endorses an academic viewpoint, and therefore coverage of one should not be misconstrued as support of one. Thus, a newspaper article on an academic viewpoint is only good for stating what it is and that it has received coverage in a certain manner. By the very definition of notability, a couple such articles might establish the subject as notable. But significance is defined as support in the relevant academic community. The difference is most strongly demonstrated by subjects such as intelligent design. The coverage of the matter, and its influences on governance and education, makes the subject plainly notable. It is, however, utterly insignificant, and so is not mentioned in the article on evolution.
Bad arguments that Wikipedia doesn't work
In stark contrast to my general view of Wikipedia, there is a large body of people who believe that Wikipedia is violating its own principles, has forgotten where it came from, or more apocalyptically, is headed for doom. Virtually all of these claims are greatly exaggerated, and most come from individuals new or completely alien to the project.
Wikipedia's notability guideline unduly restricts its content
By requiring coverage from multiple reliable sources many users, usually newbies, claim that Wikipedia is needlessly restricting its content. They claim that the guideline is preventing the inclusion of something that to them is undeniably important or significant. They often back up their arguments with subjective claims about the topic in question, or bring up number-based arguments like Google hits, number of downloads, or number of views on a website.
Most individuals who make this argument are usually trying to advertise their own self, band, book or theory. Or sometimes it's just their favorite person, band, book or theory. They consistently claim that reliable sources shouldn't be needed, because they can personally attest that the subject is important enough for an article. These individuals don't understand how naive their argument is. They expect others to simply take their word on it, when no one has any means to verify their subjective claims of their importance. And indeed, what cannot be distinguished at AFD from advertising is deleted.
Wikipedia's reliable sources guideline is too restrictive
This argument is often made in conjunction to the issue above, in an attempt to establish the notability of a topic. In a very similar manner to claiming an article's topic to be so important an article should exist in the absence of sources, many users argue that a source is just so important or accurate that it should be assumed reliable in the absence of any verifiable reason. But of course, anyone can go online and start a website. Anyone can then go on and claim to be a widely read, accurate and reliable source. As with the section on notability, above, if there is nothing to distinguish a source from random cruft on the internet, then it will be presumed unreliable.
Wikipedia's requirement for reliable sources makes it a mouthpiece for established media
Most people who make this argument simply can't appreciate that an enyclopedia is not like myspace or facebook, and that not everything gets to have a page here. They do not appreciate that Wikipedia is meant to only republish facts and opinions that have been reliably published before. Instead, they want to use Wikipedia to in some way challenge the existing order, and promote their band or their theory on how the World Trade Center was destroyed.
Even some established users fret about this point, and wish that there were some other way to get what they feel is obviously accurate information into Wikipedia. Many such users elaborate that anything that would be considered a reliable source is too commercialized, and won't publish everything that is significant, instead publishing only what is commercializable. I never understood what meat this argument was intended to hold. If a fact is so significant it should appear in an encyclopedia, but not a single newspaper, magazine, journal, book or expert's blog has taken the time to write one sentence about it, how significant can it really be? The truth is that, in my opinion and according to policy, significance necessarily means having been reported by a reliable source.
I have a right to edit, and therefore no one can delete my contributions
This argument has several incarnations, but the most trivial really is as ridiculous as the header to this section. Many users claim that it's a violation of their rights as an editor, or even more hilariously, their free speech, to delete their new article, or their contributions to an existing article. Some claim that only an expert on the topic of the article, such as music or physics, should be allowed to judge their contribution. I personally find this one of the most arrogant arguments to be made by anyone on Wikipedia; these users are essentially claiming that they are allowed to do as they please, and that no one is allowed to disagree with them.
Why there are hard and fast rules
Abound on Wikipedia are policies and guidelines that not only set a fine line between violations and non-violations, but also permit or encourage immediate solutions for violations. Many users see such rules as a violation of the spirit of Wikipedia, or at least of the spirit of ignoring all rules. Most such users have run afoul of the very rules they hate the most. But the other side of the story is that hard and fast rules are necessary for the efficient running of a large project. Hard and fast rules are usually put in place where the distinction between violations and non-violations is extremely clear, although sometimes the extreme controversy over the position is the very reason the rule was created.
Hard and fast rules to limit unecessary discussion
In some cases, hard and fast rules limit pointless discussion when the outcome of a dispute can be easily predicted based on precedent.
Criteria for speedy deletion
This is the prime example of a rule created to minimize redundant discussion. The criteria for speedy deletion were created out of hundreds or thousands of editor-years worth of experience in what articles tended to get deleted at discussions. Each criterion describes a class of articles that virtually no experienced editors would support keeping. Of course, many speedily deleted articles could be worked up to a point at which they would be kept at a deletion discussion, but combined with the experience on what gets deleted is experienced on what gets fixed. For example, most articles that don't assert notability, and also appear to not be notable based on coursory searches in the usual places, never become satisfactorily fixed.
No legal threats
As Wikipedia's vision is to build a free content encyclopedia through a collaberative process, any actions that inhibit collaberation are discouraged. There are certain actions that are seen as having zero part in the collaberation process, and legal threats are an extreme example. In addition, this rule is coupled to a meta rule that individuals engaged in an a legal dispute with the Wikimedia Foundation are not permitted to edit Wikimedia wikis. I can only speak for myself, but I doubt the average, experienced Wikipedia editor is phased much by being called an ass. And this is the reason that more trivial harrassment is met first by warnings. But legal threats have a chilling effect that could indeed phase many editors. And what is certainly a fact is that legal threats have no place on Wikipedia.
Hard and fast rules to encourage fruitful discussion
In other cases, hard and fast rules actually encourage the resolution of disputes, or at least the resolution of disputes in the "right" manner.
The three-revert rule
This is a rather unusual hard and fast rule, in that the activity it prevents, the reversion of particular edits, often has no uniform agreement on its appopriateness or lack thereof. In fact, the drama this rule creates is why it exists. To explain this, one first has to realize that there is nothing special about three. One could say that in any particular edit war, there's a certain point at which the editors should be made to stop, by either blocks or protection. But where is that point? At one revert, two, three, five...If the choice were left to a discussion, there would never be agreement on when the point was passed. In any event, a block would be met by protest that not enough reverts had been made. The three-revert rule creates a way to prevent users from edit warring without having to decide when that point has passed. Instead, it's very simple: Make four reverts, and you're blocked. With this clearly drawn line against edit warring, editors are encouraged to discuss the matter instead.
Verifiability is a cornerstone of Wikipedia, and is one of the policies that has served as part of the bedrock of editing philosophy. "The threshold for inclusion on Wikipedia is Verifiability, not truth." While this simple and strict statement has been a source of derision by many newcomers, switching the focus from truth to verifiability is part of what allows Wikipedia to function. In an encyclopedia built by volunteers, in which no real vetting of an individual's expert status is feasible, this policy simplifies discussion greatly. Instead of relying on debate over the validity of a fact or viewpoint, the debate focuses on the easier to tackle issue of whether it is verifiable. Even if experts could be vetted, this philosophy is still preferable. Allowing experts to run the show would merely invite them to introduce their personal biases into articles.
Rules that deliberately aren't
Rules that deliberately aren't hard and fast include those that prohibit vandalism, advertising and original research. One part of the reason is that in all of these cases, it is felt that, except in extreme cases, there is no pressing concern to immediately block the user involved. Many stop or reform after being warned. It can also be the case that a work of original research can be transformed into proper material with better sourcing and an attention to wording. But the most important reason for their not being hard and fast rules is to give editors and administrators the leeway to use the rules as intended. If vandalism and advertising could be given a clear definition, everyone who intended to add such content would carefully walk around the definition. And in the case of original research, it may not be obvious whether a particular article or claim constitutes as much.
Episodes, characters and other fictional spinoff articles
The world of fiction presents an unusual collision between two distinct guidelines, that for summary style of articles and that for the writing only of articles on notable topics. The former would tell us that when an article is getting unreasonably large, then a section should be spun off into its own article to maintain readability. The latter would tell us that an article should only exist on a topic if it has received substantial coverage from multiple, reliable, independent sources. And of course, the reason these two collide is that the average television episode or fictional character has not received any substantial coverage, but this does not stop editors from writing copious amounts of material on them from primary sources. In theory, this could be covered by the policy that Wikipedia is not for plot summaries, but that is in hot dispute.
Common arguments on the deletionist side of the debate are that allowing these fiction articles promotes the needless creation of fancruft that does nothing to help build an encyclopedia. Common arguments on the inclusionist side of the debate are that fiction and popular culture are a part of society, and thus deserve as much a part in the encyclopedia as any other.
I generally err on the deletionist side of things, largely because I don't believe Wikipedia should serve as a mirror of anything and everything that ever existed. For this reason, in a hypothetical situation that would never achieve the lack of consensus that this debate has, I would never support the creation of articles on every writing ever made by a random, notable individual. As for fiction, then just as Wikipedia is not repository of anything and everything ever published on the internet, nor should it for anything and everything ever to appear in fiction. However, the fiction issue generally confines itself to exactly that. Unlike other areas of rampant attempts to include insignificant content in Wikipedia, the fiction issue almost never constitutes an attempt to advertise anything, or an attempt to push a point of view.
If a problem is confined to an isolated group of articles, then it must be viewed in that context. Thus, the only people to read these articles were probably looking specifically for them. And as mentioned above, since these people are not going to find promotional or biased material, the question has to be whether fictional content that is only sourced to the primary publications is a good thing for Wikipedia to show to those readers, and not necessarily the more general issue.
And after laying all of that out, I honestly have no opinion. What I do believe is that having exhaustive fictional content on Wikipedia does the project no actual good. I also believe that removing it from Wikipedia does the project no actual good. And for those reasons, except in unusual circumstances, I could not be bothered to either delete or undelete such an article. I might form an opinion myself somewhere down the road, but I believe that for the present, no consensus is likely to appear on this issue.